Stress-free Practice Is Essential for a Calm First Confession
Having raised sons to adulthood, I look differently at seven-year-olds than a parent who is raising them. I see them as little kids! I remember thinking the life stages and events were far more serious than in fact they were. First Reconciliation is a big, serious event. We want the children to appreciate and respect that, but not to fear or worry about their first confession. It is daunting even for adults making a first reconciliation, and with good reason–we’ve been around longer! Children need support, education, practice, and calm parents. Model for them going to Mass; receiving Communion; going to confession; and teach them how to cross themselves; and how to genuflect. It is not easy for many young children to genuflect. The coordination of “right knee down; left knee up” is challenging. It’s going to require some growing, but they’ll figure it out by imitating you. “Practice makes perfect” is a great slogan, but we aren’t going for perfection here. We want this to be a loving, positive experience, including practice at home. If you have an enthusiastic child, they will enjoy the time. A reluctant or anxious child needs some positive encouragement and support. Here are key actions for teaching a child anything: Model the behavior; Encourage the child to imitate; Reward with positive language and hugs; Keep practice sessions short–ten minutes a time is fine; Practice a few times a week. If you are comfortable with the idea of practicing with outlandish “sins” such as, robbing a bank, kids do learn well through play. If your child is in a CCD class, the power of the peer group will help your child a lot. They’ll watch others and follow. Remind your child that this is not a test or a competition. First Reconciliation is a special moment in their growing relationship with God.
For Parents to Teach to Their Children
“The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation has four parts: contrition, confession, act of penance, and absolution.”
Source: Believe Celebrate Live First Reconciliation page 62
Our Art Gallery
Abstract Collage for Reconciliation
“Priest’s Purple Stole”
For Children who will be making a First Reconciliation:
To Make The Sign of the Cross:
Pages 4 and 5 at the beginning of the text, Believe Celebrate Live First Reconciliation show the different places a priest might hear confession: at a table with two chairs in the church; face to face with the priest in the sanctuary, in a confessional with the screen; in a confessional face to face; or seated side by side in a pew in the church. It’s very helpful for children to visit the church to visualize all of these locations and perhaps try them out, if possible. A tour of the church and the confessionals will help ease children’s fears or anxiety. This was a Sunday School highlight for last year’s children receiving First Reconciliation. Practice at home, with a family member reading the priest’s role and the children making up possible “sins” to confess. They need to hear, from their parents, that their sins are private and only the priest will hear the “real” ones.
Please read this together with your child:
“Celebrating the Sacrament of and Reconciliation” from Believe Celebrate Live Reconciliation by Sadlier Sacrament Program pages, 62-64, explains what happens when a child celebrates the Sacrament of Reconciliation face to face with a priest:
“The priest welcomes you, and you both make the sign of the cross.
You listen as the priest shares a Bible story about God’s forgiveness.
You confess your sins to the priest.
You and the priest talk about making right choices.
The priest gives a penance to you. You will do your penance after the celebration of the sacrament.
You pray an act of contrition. You tell God you are sorry for your sins and that you will try to not sin again.
You receive absolution. The priest stretches his right hand over your head and says the words of absolution. (Say, “Amen.”)
In God’s name your sins are forgiven by the priest.
You and the priest praise and thank God for his love and forgiveness.
The priest tells you, ‘Go in peace.’”
The Words of Absolution from Our Life With Jesus, Faith and Life Series 3, on page 71,
Here’s what the priest says:
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
“When we hear the words of absolution, we know that Jesus Himself is forgiving us through the priest. He says, “I absolve you from your sins in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We accept the absolution by answering, ‘Amen.’”
Practice “An Act of Contrition” out loud, so that it is very familiar, and fluent.
God’s Gift to Us Through Reconciliation
For An Excellent Explanation of Reconciliation and Confession for Children:
“Sacrament of Reconciliation”
“Tips on Helping Children With First Reconciliation”
catholicmom.com offers these suggestions:
“Practice Out Loud — ‘The Glory Be,’ ‘The Lord’s Prayer,’ and ‘Hail Mary’
Parents: There are helpful “Confession Guides” for children and parents on the Internet.”
“5 Ways to Prepare Your Child for First Reconciliation” from catholicmom.com
1. “Talk about the Sacrament of Reconciliation Together”
2. “Examination of Conscience”
4. “Go to Confession as a Family”
5. “Pray Together”
From USCCB.org “Let Children Come: The Sacrament of Reconciliation and Children”
Read about “The Examination of Conscience for Children” by Fr. Thomas Weinandy
Learning about Confession through Play
Lacy, creator of Catholic Icing, artist, and mother of four children, has great ideas about helping children become comfortable with first confession. I recommend a look at her website for First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion craft and learning activities for children–Super creative and fun!
Reconciliation Art Project
This drawing, by a second grader, contains the priest’s stole for confession, two crosses, and the color purple for penance. It was done in chalk pastels, with a black Sharpie pen for the small cross, then was glued to the heavy-weight, bright color construction paper to frame and support it for display.
Suggested Homework Activities–Week Seven
“Help your child to appreciate and treasure the gift of God’s forgiveness.”
Talk to your child about the treasures of reconciliation. Have them write down, in any style they wish, the gifts they will be receiving.